Napoleon was the Emperor of the French and at the height of his powers. He controlled almost all of Europe. Only Britain, Spain and Portugal defied him. Napoleon was obsessed with Britain. He decided that he could make her poor by stopping other countries from buying things from Britain. He forced everyone in Europe to stop buying from Britain. Except Russia. Russia was a huge and powerful country. Their ruler was called the Tsar. He was not afraid of Napoleon.
Napoleon assembled a massive army, half a million strong. It had Frenchmen, Italians, Germans and Poles. He invaded Russia in the summer of 1812. The Russians knew that Napoleon was a brilliant General and his army was bigger than theirs. So they refused to fight. Instead they retreated deeper and deeper into Russia. Napoleon chased them. Many of his men died in the summer heat from marching.
When Napoleon was half way to the Russian capital, Moscow, his generals urged him to wait out the winter. However, Napoleon was worried that people would think he was weak because he had not defeated the Russians in battle. He pushed on to Moscow.
Outside Moscow he found the Russian army. The Russians had built strong fortifications. They were made of earth and had spikes in front of them. Napoleon’s generals suggested he go around the side of the fortifications. However, Napoleon did not want the Russians to run away again. Instead he attacked. The battle raged all day. It was the bloodiest battle in Europe until World War One. Eventually, fierce French attacks forced the Russians from their positions. However, still the Russians did not run away. Overnight the Russians retreated again. Napoleon marched into Moscow. He believed he had won. After all he had captured the Russian capital. Still though the Russians did not surrender.
Then the Russians deliberately set fire to Moscow. They burned down their own city. Napoleon was left in a ruined city with no food and no shelter. He had to retreat. As he retreated the first snow fell.
The weather got colder and colder. The French had no winter clothes. They began to freeze. Slowly their army disintegrated. Napoleon ordered their wagons burned to help the army march faster.
Then Napoleon got to river. There was no bridge. He had burned the bridge building equipment in the wagons. The Russians closed in for the kill. Then one of the French engineers admitted that he had not burned all the equipment. There was enough left to build a bridge. Under heavy Russian attacks the French built a bridge and the army escaped across it.
Now Napoleon needed to leave the army to get back to Paris and raise a new army.
He asked his bravest general, Marshal Ney, to help get the army home. Marshal Ney commanded the rearguard of the army. He fought like a common soldier and was the last man out of Russia. He was called the Bravest of the Brave.
Of the half a million men who invaded Russia, only 10,000 survived.
It was a total disaster.
Speaking of disasters, sorry this episode was late. When I uploaded it last night the whole episode crashed and wiped. The girls' were very understanding and we did the entire thing again this morning before school!
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